RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – While the omicron variant has not been detected in North Carolina, experts say it won’t be long until it is.
Very little is known about the variant as it becomes more prevalent.
Early data on the omicron variant of COVID-19 has started to emerge from South Africa. The report looked at a total of 166 patients found with the Omicron variant in South Africa.
When speaking to CNN’s State of the Union, chief medical advisor to the president, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said, “Thus far it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it. But we’ve really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or really doesn’t cause any severe illness comparable to Delta.”
It’s important to note this is only information for the first two weeks and for a small sample size. More data will be needed to get the full scope of this variant’s impact on the pandemic.
The biggest find from researchers there was that most of the patients – 70 percent – with the omicron variant did not have to be put on oxygen. Of those who did have to be put on oxygen, 21 percent were diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia.
Doctors there found the majority of people admitted to the hospital were admitted for other reasons and it was only upon their admission that it was found they were infected with COVID-19.
The report also looked at vaccination rates among those infected. Of 38 adults with COVID-19 at a single time, six were vaccinated while 24 were not.
Vaccination information was missing for eight patients.
Doctors behind the report said the best indicator of how severe the omicron variant is could be determined through the in-hospital death rate.
Of the 166 total admissions, 6.6 percent ended in death. Severity by age was almost evenly split. Four deaths were in the 26 through 36 age group and five were in someone over 60.
The average hospital stay for an omicron patient was just under three days. For the last 18 months, the average stay was just over eight days.
As researchers learn more about the variant, here is what the CDC is saying about the most asked questions related to the virus:
How easily does omicron spread? The omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and how easily omicron spreads compared to delta remains unknown.
Will omicron cause more severe illness? More data are needed to know if omicron infections, and especially reinfections and breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated, cause more severe illness or death than infection with other variants.
Will vaccines work against omicron? Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the omicron variant.
Will treatments work against omicron? Scientists are working to determine how well existing treatments for COVID-19 work. Based on the changed genetic make-up of omicron, some treatments are likely to remain effective while others may be less effective.